[TUHS] System Economics

Steve Johnson scj at yaccman.com
Fri Mar 17 11:04:45 AEST 2017

Yes, Doug is spot on.  Being told by the govt. that we had to patent
everything we could and license it fairly got rather strange when
software was involved -- there was a lot of question whether software
could be patented at all, and the Labs had to patent software if it
could be patented (e.g., the setuid bit).

The biggest issue, which still hasn't gone away, is that software
moves so much faster than the law.  The lawyers seemed to take the
standpoint that if something was questionable, just wait for five
years until there are better legal precedents. 

At one point I made a major push to get the PCC grammar for C released
in the public domain.  I still think this would have brought
standardization about much sooner, and my managers were in favor of
it.  But the lawyers delayed and delayed.  The next thing you know,
we had "far pointers" and all sorts of other gook in the language that
took the standards committee additional years to wring out.  Sigh...


----- Original Message -----
From: "Doug McIlroy" <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu>
To:<tuhs at tuhs.org>
Sent:Thu, 16 Mar 2017 15:33:10 -0400
Subject:Re: [TUHS] System Economics

 "Open" was certainly not a work heard in the Unix lab,
 where our lawyers made sure we knew it was a "trade secret".
 John Lions was brought into the lab both because we admired
 his work and because the lawyers wanted to reel that work
 back in-house.

 Out in the field, the trade secret was treated in many
 different ways. Perhaps the most extreme was MIT, whose
 lawyers believed it could not be adequately protected in
 academia and forbade its use there. I don't know what eventually
broke the logjam.


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